Though an R-1 visa is only temporary, it can pave the way for religious workers to reside permanently in the United States. The USCIS grants R-1 work visas to foreign nationals who wish to perform religious work in the country. As a result, it can help holders to meet one of the key requirements of an EB-4 green card application.
Converting an R-1 visa to a green card
R-1 visa holders may be eligible to seek for an EB-4 special immigrant visa after two years of religious employment. The EB-4 visa is an employment-based green card given to certain groups of individuals, including religious workers, who wish to work and live permanently in the United States.
To qualify for an EB-4 visa, religious workers must:
- Be a member of a religious denomination for a minimum of two years
- Intend to work full-time in the U.S. at a religious organization or a nonprofit organization affiliated with a religious denomination in the U.S.
- Worked for two years straight, whether abroad or in the United States, in one of the positions described above before filing the petition
Because the criteria for both are similar, having an R-1 visa can help simplify the route toward obtaining a green card. Religious workers can first apply for an R-1 visa, gain two years of religious work experience, and then work on their green card petition by converting their visa status.
Unfortunately, because of high demand, there have been major backlogs for green card applications. R-1 visa holders who exceed the five-year limit may consider working with an attorney to explore options for extending their stay while waiting for their application to progress.